Groundbreaking jazz manager John Levy dies at 99

January 24, 2012 - 3:35 AM
Obit John Levy

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2006 file photo, Jazz legend John Levy receives a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award at the NEA Jazz Masters Awards Concert in New York. Levy, the first prominent African-American personal manager in the jazz or pop music field, whose clients included Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis, died Friday, Jan. 20, 2012 at age 99. (AP Photo/Jennifer Szymaszek, File)

ALTADENA, California (AP) — John Levy, the first prominent African-American personal manager in the jazz or pop music field, whose clients included Nancy Wilson and Ramsey Lewis, has died at age 99.

Devra Hall Levy posted on his website that her husband died Friday in his sleep at his home in Altadena, California, less than three months before his 100th birthday.

An accomplished bassist, the New Orleans-born Levy performed with such jazz greats as Stuff Smith, Billie Holiday, Erroll Garner and Billy Taylor in the 1940s before joining pianist George Shearing's original quintet. In the early 1950s, he became Shearing's full-time manager and later went on to form his own management agency, John Levy Enterprises Inc.

Levy's client roster over the years included more than 85 artists, including Wilson, Lewis, Nat and Cannonball Adderley, Betty Carter, Roberta Flack, Herbie Hancock, Shirley Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Ahmad Jamal and Abbey Lincoln as well as comedian Arsenio Hall.

In 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized Levy as a Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.

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